HP Embraces SDN Control

Software Defined Networking isn’t just about having OpenFlow support on a switch; it also requires applications and a controller.

HP has officially supported OpenFlow on some of its switches since February of this year, and even longer in a non-supported fashion. This week, HP is taking a step further into SDN with the announcement of a complete SDN solution, including controllers and applications.

“The idea is to offer the ability to be able to deploy business logic in the network in a very simple manner with programability and automated throughout the networking infrastructure using the OpenFlow protocol,” Bethany Mayer, Senior Vice President and General Manager, HP Networking, told EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet.

Additionally the new HP solution provides RESTful APIs that enables developer to write business applications that will work on the HP SDN controller.

Users of HP’s OpenFlow enabled switch portfolio have used controllers in the past, though they were typically open source SDN controllers like Floodlight. Floodlight is the open source base for the commercial SDN solution from OpenFlow pioneer Big Switch Networks.

Going a step beyond what is already available in the SDN controller market-place, HP is integrating its controller technology with existing HP network management technology including IMC (Intelligent Management Center)

Saar Gillai, Senior Vice President, HP Converged Cloud, Products and Technology, explained to EnterpriseNetworkingPlanetthe approach HP is taking is enterprise-grade programability and scalability.

“Other controller based solutions assume that someone has already setup and configured the network before they start the controller,” Gillai said. “We don’t have that challenge as we have the technology with IMC that allows customers to already do that, giving customers a fully automated environment where everything is pre-configured for them.”

Gillai explained that the HP SDN controller is additive to an existing HP networking deployment. One example of a use case for the SDN controller is cable TV giant HBO, which is an HP customer.

“HBO has an HP network and they are now adding this controller and running a security application on top of that,” Gillai said. “It’s tied to IMC, but it’s an additional component.”

What HP is also advocating is for a hybrid network that still performs traditional Layer2/3 forwarding as well as having an SDN component. Mayer noted that HBO is running SDN just for a security application across their existing traditional network.

“This is an evolutionary process,” Mayer said. “Customers won’t rip everything out and replace it, that’s why we thought out our SDN solution, so it can be used in a hybrid manner.”

SDN Applications

HP expects to see multiple applications that will run on their SDN controller.

“A lot of things that you can do with SDN are about being able to utilize the capabilities of your switches, that were always there, but that you didn’t have access too,” Gillai said.

Security and network virtualization are two of the initial application types that HP will be providing. Also with the RESTful APIs, HP is enabling its customers to build their own applications. One such customer is the CERN research group, which is using this technology to perform more sophisticated management of data center traffic.

“If you look at the last 30 years of networking, whenever you wanted to do something on the network there was a long sequence of events between business needs down to the programming of switch,” Gillai said. “Now the idea is to remove the boundary and provide a more elegant and abstracted interface into your network.”

In addition to having OpenFlow enabled switches, the new controller and applications, HP is also providing professional services to enterprise as they navigate towards an SDN network. Mayer noted that HP will have a network transformation workshop as well as services to help deliver and drive a proof of concept deployment within a network.

Fundamentally, HP’s SDN efforts are all about network simplification.

“The cloud is all about simplification and abstraction, focusing on business needs instead of the bits,” Gillai said. “SDN is really the network component of that.”

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist. SDN

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